Base Boiling – Competitive Necessity or Interesting Technique?

boilingbasesBase Boiling!  The term itself to me now conjures thoughts of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman in the RV working on the perfect batch in AMC’s Breaking Bad series!    Awesome show if you get to watch it!    I’ve been in this Internet driven electric football community since 1996!  18 years now!!!  My, oh, my how far we have come!!!  The real question regarding base boiling is “Is it still necessary?”  Is this some secret recipe for a competitive edge or just an interesting technique?  Boiling bases is necessary for some older bases in order to get them to perform well, however, I believe this base boiling debate has moved from the competitive edge arena into the interesting technique given the new and improved bases that are being manufactured by Tudor, ITZ and Buzzball.  These manufacturers have listened to the demand by electric football coaches for a better out of the box experience.

Yeah, I use to base boil, and I still know how, and I really don’t care one way or another if we let boiled bases into competition in the MFCA or not, my main concern is that if we do that everyone in the competition has a basic understanding of it and it is available for anyone to do and more importantly that someone knows when a base needs to be boiled over a straight tweak job with pliers.  I think the abundance of the bases on the market have soft enough plastic molded into the base and there are plenty of new bases available to all.  I know, I know, someone is now going to throw the “Miggle 1st Runs in my face”.  Well, I bought a bunch of the Miggle 1st runs when they first became available 6 or 7 years ago and I bought a bunch of the Tudor 1st Runs last year at MFCA CON.6 in 2013.  I tested them and the Tudor product is no different than the Miggle 1st runs.  They’re the same!

Let’s get down to the root of the base boiling issue and lets start with plastic.  Our bases are made of plastic; there are varying densities of plastic ranging from very hard to soft depending on the specific use of the item for the plastic.  The plastic that has been commonly used to date in Electric Football manufacturing is Polyethylene, in the variety of Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) and High-density polyethylene (HDPE).  Other varieties of “plastic” include Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE), Polystyrene (Styrofoam), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon), Polyvinyl dine Chloride (Saran), and Polypropylene (PP).

One reason Electric Football got such a bad rap as being a “suck product” and people said “the game doesn’t work” is because of the plastic that was used in production in the early bases was a very hard plastic.  Another downfall was the lack of “Internet” that we have now to share information on how to make these things work.  Heck if you have never changed the brake pads on your car you can Google a YouTube video on how to change your brake pads, watch a few videos and providing that you’re not a complete moron you can do the job yourself and save yourself a ton of cash!  Electric football is no different and I have long been a proponent of the “Do-it-yourself” hobbyist!

What we have today with the Internet in this Electric Football community is the collective and rapid knowledge access of each old timer electric football coach and budding up and comer who can rapidly upload and download new information through the Internet to all coaches new or old in this hobby.  My favorite is the old dust off of information from the old timer who chimes in “this is how we did it in 1969” which more than likely their technique still works today.  The techniques we use to get these bases to perform range from pure artiststry to basic science principles.   I love it!  There’s always someone putting a new spin on base tweaking as the best technique.  My personal test for success is those that win championships with those techniques (and they’re within the ruleset).

The boiling of electric football bases has been around for quite a while.  Early electric football pioneers, many of whom are now members of the Miniature Football Coaches Association, had a sincere desire to make this game work and they started with analyizing the bases and how to make them go the way they wanted to.  With trial and error, ingenuity, and dogged determination we have figured out how to make these old and new bases go the way we want them to.   Electric Football has now evolved thorugh this knowledge sharing via the Internet from a game that doesn’t work to a moving chess board with very real coaching decisions that must be made by each coach in competitive and solitaire settings.  When these bases were made of hard plastic, boiling them made since as it helped a bad base become a good base.

Boiling bases has evolved from plain hot water to adding oil like baby oil, castor oil, or mineral oil.  I’ve even heard of people microwaving them to make them bigger; works with a hamster and an egg…why not a base (seriously, don’t microwave any animals, it’s illegal).  Straight hot water will soften the base, but what you’re really trying to target in the boil process is the prongs.  Too hot or too long and those prongs will disappear!  Adding oil does help make the prongs softer which in-turn helps to accept the vibration from the game board more and increases the predictability of the base.

As the Internet has evolved we have come together as an Electric Football Community.  We now share information quite quickly.    Add Facebook and Twitter and the latest and greatest tweaked base by any electric football coach can be accessed by all who care within seconds with the upload of a simple video from your Cell phone!  Absolutely unheard of 18 years ago!  A common reality today and one I fully embrace for the good and bad that it can create.  You just have to learn how to manage it and assess what information is being fed to you as reality or “not so fast”.

Today’s electric football manufacturers and inventors have listened very carefully to their audience/customers  and they have taken the time to actually engineer smarter products like bases, balanced figures and bigger and better running game boards.  With these new products, they all have one common bond and a theme that has resonated throughout the electric football community for the last 67 years “WE WANT A BETTER OUT OF THE BOX EXPERIENCE”.  The demand to produce a better out of the box experience is not isolated to the electric football community, it is something every manufacturer strives to produce.

Enter the Miniature Football Coaches Association (MFCA), just like the old BASF commercials, “we don’t make the products you buy, we make them better!”  Our products in the MFCA are information and the MFCA Tournament of Champion series.  We, the MFCA Board of Directors and staff strive daily to maintain our website free from hackers and keep the information flow happening among our members.  We host five tournaments a year!

As the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the MFCA I am ambivalent about whether we should allow boiled bases or not in our TOCs.  Boiling bases is a technique to help improve a product; it doesn’t work for every base out there.  In my opinion the bases being produced today by Tudor, ITZ and Buzzball offer a better out of the box experience without the added step of base boiling to soften the plastic.  Some of the older bases, yes, boiling them does help them, but in today’s manufacturing environment and the quest to make the products better and relevant to the demands of the competitive coaches and the solitaire coaches, it’s not a necessity these days for the newer bases.

I’m not against base boiling by any means.  It does work to help an older hard base run better.  But in the current line of bases that have been manufactured, there really is no need to boil a brew (in my opinion) because with a little pass of a lighter under the base to flash the edges and the tweak of a prong with some pliers the bases do what I want them to do because the manufacturers today have listened and they are producing a better out of the box experience without the added need for an additional step of boiling a base.  I have not boiled a base in the last 10 years!

As your MFCA BOD Chairman I oversee the day-to-day operations of the MFCA and my main concern when you show up for a TOC event is that the rules are published and that all of the coaches who show up to compete have had the opportunity to review and know how to play within the rule set.  Every year I open the MFCA TOC rulebook up for MFCA membership input to suggest new rules for consideration.  The TOC Rules committee evaluates each rule submission for balance between offensive and defensive fairness, impacts to game play timing at each tournament (keep in mind we are playing close to 100 games in any weekend at any TOC event), and necessity of the rule for improvement on the game or a step-back into a competitive setting that we have previously evolved from.

I have three main concerns with base boiling as your MFCA BOD Chairman.  My main concerns with base boiling:

1.  All members know how to do it properly.

2.  I do not want kids burning down the house boiling a batch of bases and causing a liability on the MFCA or an individual coache who is the author of a boiled base recipe that would certainly bring this community to a screeching halt.  Adult supervision is absolutely mandatory, you can start a fire if unattended or done improperly!

3.  Lastly, if base boiling is ever added to the MFCA TOC format given the bases that are currently on the market as new bases, the real question to be asked is, is base boiling still a necessity to get the product to work?   I’m sure the MFCA TOC Competition Committee will review that very question if it is ever proposed into the MFCA TOC Rule set.

I’m not so naive to think that someone has never “snuck” a boiled base into a TOC event.  I’m sure they have and they probably got it right past me as I am one of the main guys checking bases and teams in at the TOC along with my fellow BOD members.  My pushback to you that have snuck a boiled base into a TOC and competed is “shame on you!”  Our motto in the MFCA is Unity, Integrity and Fellowship.  Certainly if you have snuck a boiled base in then you are violating the rules, however, more importantly and more damning to your soul is your personal lack of integrity, discipline and adhearance to the ruleset.  If you’ve never done this then my damning comments do not apply to you and you need not worry about my condemnation.  If you have, you really need to self examine yourself, your life and your priorities.  All we’re trying to do in the MFCA TOC is have fun and compete in a given ruleset that all are expected to adhere to.  If you can’t do that then you have many other issues going on in your life that you must take the time for self reflection.  If you can do that then you have nothing to worry about and your integrity is in tact and thank you for being you!  Luckily the TOC competition usually weeds these would-be cheaters out.

To end this article, I do not believe that boiling bases with today’s new bases gives anyone a competitive advantage.  The information and varying techniques are there for all to see with a simple Google search or MFCA thread search.  Today’s manufactured bases are a better out of the box experience and the MFCA TOC 4.0 gram weight limit is a great equalizer with regard to base performance fast or slow.  I really think that in today’s environment that base boiling is more of an interesting technique and an extra step (that can be messy) that helps an older, harder plastic base improve to become a more predictable base, however there is enough newer softer plastic bases on the market that there is equal parity in the competition arena for boiled bases and non-boiled bases as not to be a distinctive threat to derail the competition environment; in other words I do not believe that base boiling is a necessity that gives someone in today’s electric football competitions a competitive advantage over another as we have checks and balances to keep competition fair and more importantly fun!

~ Jerry McGhee ~


MFCA Board of Directors


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